Term Paper: Music Education or Cross Platform Development

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Music Education or Cross Platform Development

Pitch is commonly mistaken for being a term which is analogous to frequency; however, pitch is actually based on perception. Pitch is the human perception of the frequency of a musical note. (Heresiarch 2005) While pitch is related to the frequency, or physical rate of vibration in a sound wave, it is distinctly different.

The current standardized relationship between pitch and frequency is that the note a above middle C. sounds like a 440 Hz tone. In a musical context, the exact frequency of a note is far less important than its relationship to other notes. Numerous systems exist for defining the relationship between notes in a scale, usually involving a fixed frequency ratio between successive notes. The chromatic scale, which is most common in European music uses a frequency ratio of the twelfth root of two. Numerous other scales are in common use, with various significant intervals, but almost all make use of the octave, a frequency ratio of two. Because pitch is a human perception, and not a physical phenomenon, auditory illusions, such as a sequence of notes that increases in pitch forever are possible.

Psychoacoustics is the study of the perception of sounds. (Omegatron 2005) This area of study is very relevant to any research on sound, however when dealing with pitch recognition it is particularly important because pitch is defined by perception alone. Sound can be accurately measured by audio signal processing software, however the way in which those sound waves are actually received by the human ear and processed into thoughts in the brain is a more complex -- and quite significant -- study in itself. Because of the nature of sound, the signal can actually have an infinite amount of information to be processed in the mind. When the psychological factors involved in the perception of sound are ignored in favor of only the physiological processes of the ear system, important aspects of sound and human hearing are also overlooked.

Normal human hearing is between 20 Hz to 22 kHz, though with age particularly the higher end of that range decreases. Although lower frequencies may not be detected by the ears, the vibration can still be detected by the skin. The normal change in pitch that can be detected is 2 Hz; changes in pitch lower than 2 Hz may not be detectable. Ear drums are sensitive to the sound pressure variations, and the upper limit of audible sounds is generally defined by whether or not the ears will be physically harmed, and louder sounds can be withstood for shorter periods of time. "The ear can be exposed to short periods in excess of 120 dB without permanent harm, but long-term exposure to sound levels over 80 dB can cause permanent hearing loss." (Omegatron 2005)

Masking effects are discussed in some other sections of this review of literature. Masking is the phenomenon by which louder sounds make weaker sounds inaudible. Simultaneous masking is when two sounds occur at the same time and one masks the other; this is sometimes referred to as frequency masking because sounds which are closer in frequency to a loud sound are more easily masked. Temporal masking is when a weak sound is made immediately before or immediately after a loud sound.

Psychoacoustics allow for lossy signal compression to be high quality by modeling what aspects of the audio signal can be removed or reduced and not significantly affect the perception of the sound. The psychoacoustic model allows for compression of audio files by working with the same concepts that make a particular sound seem very loud in a quiet atmosphere, however the same sound in a loud atmosphere seems very quiet. "It might seem as if this would provide little benefit to the overall compression ratio, but psychoacoustic analysis routinely leads to compressed music files that are 10 to 12 times smaller than high quality original masters with very little discernible loss in quality." (Omegatron 2005) Further details about compressed audio formats, including MP3, OGG Vorbis, and others are discussed at length elsewhere in this literature review. These formats utilize a compression algorithm which defines which sounds are outside of the range of human hearing and marks those as low priority, sacrificing low priority sounds and strengthening the high priority sounds which will absolutely fall in the range of hearing.

Before pitch became standardized, there were very large variances in pitch. Standardization occurred as a result of a desire for different performers to perform together. Since the human mind tends to notice differences in pitch more than absolute frequency, it is problematic to have instruments used in combination that are tuned differently. The first known official standardization of pitch came in 1859, when the french government passed a law defining the a above middle C. As 435 Hz. The primary motivation came as a result of the trend at the time for orchestras to increase their pitch to achieve a "brighter" sound. The increase in pitch brought complaints from singers, who's voices were increasingly strained by having to hit higher and higher notes.

Modern understanding of the theories and models of pitch would be nonexistent without those developed in the past. Modern music technology can only exist based on the music theories of the past. While applications of speech and tone recognition software could not possibly be fathomed by theorists in any previous era, their work is still essential to the advancements made in software, programming, and hardware today. Perhaps the shortcomings of today's technology can be overcome drawing from the knowledge of the past. Alain de Cheveigne (2004) explores the historical perspective of pitch theories and models, from their origins with the work of Pythagoras to current developments. De Cheveigne attempts to present a complete full spectrum of tonal theories and models from throughout history in order to evaluate the full pursuit of understanding that has been offered on this subject, for as De Cheveigne so eloquently explains, "anyone who likes ideas will find many good ones in the history of science." (De Cheveigne 2004)

Music theory has often been embraced historically as a natural part of the sciences, not as a part of the study of the arts alone. Today, much of the focus of music is kept at a far distance from science, and the closest application of music to science is to gain an understanding of how sound is perceived, in the hearing science field. Yet even this field has, historically, been focused on musical pitch, and once again music is drawn into a scientific light. "Music once constitutes a major part of Science, and theories of music were theories of the world." (De Cheveigne 2004)

This is extremely relevant to the work at hand because of the nature of this connection between music and science that inarguably exists in the field of music technology. Although there may be controversy among the apparently conflicting models which have emerged in the past, the only controversy should be about the reluctance to incorporate all relevant ideas in order to further art and science. Education can only reach its potential for guiding students to enlightenment when approached without prejudice or narrow-mindedness; the success of technology in particular serves as a prime example of the movement to return to an inseparable coexistence of the arts and science, and provides an educational goal for enhancing the use of musical technology. Early and recent theories alike should be considered of equal value, including those which attempt to explain consonance and musical scales, the physiology of the ear, the physics of sound, and modern pitch perception models.

The first mathematical theory of musical intervals is credited to the 6th century mathematician and philosopher, Pythagoras, and his work has been monumentally important in all music theory work which followed. He was able to correspond a mathematical ratio of string length to musical intervals using a monochord. This instrument consisted of one string and three bridges, with two of the bridges stretching the string across the length of the board, and the third bridge dividing the string into two segments. "Intervals of unison, octave, fifth, and fourth arise for length ratios of 1:1, 1:2, 2:3, 3:4, respectively." (De Cheveigne 2004) the monochord is one example of a psychophysical model. This model illustrates the connection between the perception of music, and the physical quantity of it, as expressed in the ratio.

The mystical applications of Pythagoras's model discovery took precedence over the actual mechanics of it for many of those interested in his work, which is an example of another connection between areas of study which once co-existed but are quite separate for most modern academics: faith, art, and science. "Ratios of numbers between 1 and 4 were taken to govern both musical consonance and the relations between heavenly bodies." (De Cheveigne 2004) the relationship between the musical and the mystical is valid, but this did mark an important point where controversy began interfering with the advancement of musical… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Music Education or Cross Platform Development.  (2005, June 30).  Retrieved April 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/music-education-cross-platform-development/91749

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"Music Education or Cross Platform Development."  Essaytown.com.  June 30, 2005.  Accessed April 25, 2019.
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